The Tyranny of False Patriots and Lessons of Historical Ones
Americans carrying assault weapons into public spaces, whether it is to intimidate or “to protect,” are not patriots. Armed to the teeth, they support shop owners defying government mandates; they threaten Governor Whitmer of Michigan; they storm state capitols — all in the name of their freedom as Americans. But they have nothing in common with the American rebels who fought for independence from the England.
The fight for independence grew out of colonial frustration with England’s sudden interference with colonial economic and social activity in the 1760s. For decades the colonies had been largely ignored, other than for what they might contribute to fighting the French in America in the Seven Years War (the American battles of this war comprised the French and Indian War). Once the war was over and England’s coffers were depleted, the colonies were seen as the best new source of funds.
While the colonists objected to the economic interference for a number of reasons, including how costly it was (taxes?! duties?! fees?!), the single most important reason why the rebels from North and South fought against the British was that the Parliamentary Acts which imposed the new economic regime had been passed without any representation of those interests most effected, i.e., the American colonists.
It was this “taxation without representation” that fanned the flames of revolution. The flames were further fed by Royal interference with colonial courts and colonial civil administration, as well as by the arrival of British troops in American colonies with the sole purpose of enforcing laws which the colonists themselves had no voice in promulgating. To be subjected to a regime which the colonists themselves had no voice in creating was tyranny, plain and simple, and it could not be tolerated.
Guess what, today’s gun-toting so-called patriots? You have representation. You have the right to vote. You have the right to appear at public hearings, to offer your testimony and your two cents. It is the right to vote, the right to be heard, the right to have a place at the table when your own economic fate is debated, that the American Rebels fought for. And you have those rights. You may not like what your elected officials are doing. Then vote against them. If you believe that what they are doing is unconstitutional, take them to court. But you do not have the right — and the Founding Fathers would never have fought for you to have the right — to take your guns and enforce your idea of what is right on the rest of the us — especially not during a pandemic.
In fact, in every instance in the years leading up to the American Revolution, during it, and then in the years immediately after, whenever a pandemic such as smallpox threatened a town or village, the American colonists did what was right for everyone: they imposed rigid quarantines; closed down businesses which could spread the disease; and while isolating infected people, also cared for them.
What drove the American rebels to fight for independence was a deeply held ideal that communities must be protected. Not individual rights but communal rights: the right for everyone to be safe in their home; the right for everyone to be cared for; the right for everyone to have a voice in their government. Granted, the founders of America failed in terms of how they defined who deserved representation in the government. Those too poor, or female, or Black, or Native American, did not have the right to vote (it would take brave and patriotic Americans to correct these injustices).
But the main goal the founders fought for, and achieved, was the right for Americans to determine their own destiny. Not their singular destiny: the destiny of all Americans. Sacrifice for communal benefit was a sacred tenet for the American Rebels, and they sacrificed so much in the fight for Independence. We owe them the debt of actually understanding what they fought for — and doing our best to uphold it now. Toting guns to courthouses, state houses, beauty salons is not what the American Rebels fought for. And we should not tolerate the tyranny of idiots any more than our founders tolerated the tyranny of the British.
Like history? Check out my latest book, American Rebels: How the Hancock, Adams, and Quincy Families Fanned the Flames of Revolution.